4 ways to stay out of the boss's doghouse

4 ways to stay out of the boss's doghouse

In the high-stakes world of veterinary medicine, tempers can spark easily.
Mar 16, 2012

A practice owner walks into the reception area to find his receptionist eating popcorn. Steamed, he really blows his stack?when she drops a piece of popcorn on the floor and doesn't pick it up. "Listen, you stupid [BLEEP]," he says. "You better pick up that [BLEEP] piece of popcorn."

The receptionist refuses, so the boss reaches down, picks up the piece of popcorn, and holds it within inches of her nose. "Now, you stupid [BLEEP], you better eat it," he yells, "or you're [BLEEP] fired, you stupid [BLEEP]."

Sadly, this is a true story—and there weren't any bleeps. I've been on the giving and receiving end of anger in the workplace, and those experiences left me cringing. After talking with colleagues who shared similar stories, I realized my case wasn't an isolated one. I surveyed managers and practice owners and asked for their thoughts on anger in the workplace. More than 70 respondents anonymously contributed their thoughts on workplace anger. Some answers were plaintive expressions of an underlying loneliness: "I want my staff members to acknowledge that they hear me" and "I need them to say my frustration is valid."

There were signs of an uncomfortable accord: "I try to control my anger, but often times, when I do that, I feel walked on." There was also a roster of unhappy words respondents used to describe their core feelings when pushed to the boiling point. Managers felt frustrated, and some reported feeling their employees were inappropriate, neglectful, ignorant, lacking, stupid, careless, insubordinate, disrespectful, disobedient, and blaming.

Nearly 30 percent of respondents admitted to yelling at an employee in front of his or her peers, and 50 percent acknowledged they had lost their temper with a staff member behind closed doors. More than 40 percent of respondents believed their outbursts were justified. And while 66 percent of managers said there were serious repercussions to workplace outbursts, another 7 percent agreed it was "the only way to get through to some people." Perhaps most surprising was the consensus of 59 percent who believed that it was the work conditions specific to the veterinary industry that were the seminal cause of these angry instances.

So if you've ever been the focus of a fuming outburst from your boss, you might take solace in knowing it's not all you. Though you may identify yourself as the target or your employer may identify you as the trigger, the smoking gun was most likely locked and loaded long before you arrived.